Sept. 2, 2002
Preseason for us was a timely, but awesome experience. The first week was an adjustment period. We started by earning our equipment through individual and team oriented tasks. We discovered how easily we could gel as a team even though we had a summer apart and new teammates. Our two-a-day practice blocks were tiresome but worthwhile in the long run. Coach Gavin's suicides and Coach Betsy's parallel defense are two of the things we don't look forward to in preseason. Every athlete knows that preseason isn't always the best experience, but we knew that this was our preparation for our awesome season ahead and our season opener was the San Diego State Tournament.
The flight to San Diego was almost 3 1/2 hours. The anticipation was rising because we were arriving in the city where our first match occurred. I didn't think we'd ever start the season and it seemed like the city of San Diego was only a figment of my imagination. We worked so hard in the preseason and we were all so excited when we arrived. I visited Oceanside, Calif., when I was 12, but don't remember much about the experience.
When we landed on Thursday, the beautiful images of palm trees and mountains were everywhere which definitely let me know we were there. The one thing that really amazes me about California is how there are houses on the mountain tops. Being in San Diego was a homecoming for Deva Fowler and Kim Swafford. We had heard them talk about the city weeks in advance, and when we arrived, Deva was trying to knock people down just to get off the plane. I really appreciate the way Betsy tries to play teams that will allow us to go to our respective homes at least once in our career. Anyone who plays a collegiate sport knows that there is no place like home.
The three teams in this tournament - UC-Santa Barbara, San Diego State, and Florida International - had all come from a season with a NCAA appearance, something we are striving to do. Our first game against San Diego State didn't go the way we anticipated. We had a lot of emotions running though us before the game, and we knew the long awaited game was finally here. Throughout the game, we let our emotions get the best of us. We realized the game wasn't going along as planned, but we didn't know what to do. Everyone wanted to have a great game, but nervousness took over us and we began playing too cautious. We weren't passing well nor were we putting the ball down. We had moments of brilliance, but two or three people cannot take the place of six. We weren't the force that I knew we were capable of being.
Next we played UC-Santa Barbara and the disappointment from the first loss still existed. We knew this team was ranked 20th in the nation, but I feel we can compete with anyone on any given day. We played a lot better than we did against San Diego State, but it wasn't enough. We saw the potential because we were able to compete with a nationally-ranked team. Even though we lost, we knew that this match would show us how bright our future would be if we could compete we them. I know that everyone, including the coaches, knew that we could have played better against them. But we were improving and gaining the confidence that we had before the tournament, and we knew that when we played our last game against Florida International, there would be no regrets.
In the game against Florida International we wanted to set the tone for the rest of our season. Both teams entered this game with two losses, and it was going to come down to this match to determine who would leave the tournament a winner. We had our pep talk from the coaches, but knew that we were the only people who could make this victory happen. We won the second and fourth game while they won the first and third. It was down to game five, and in the past, Tulane hasn't been a fifth-game team. We motivated each other in the best way we knew possible, confirming that we would leave a winner. The game was tight throughout. We would scream when we got kills, blocks and even aces. We complimented each other's passing and defense, and for the first time this season, we believed as a team that we were going to win.
I have never seen a Tulane team express so much emotional in a game. The score was tied 13-13 and Katie Case knew that whoever got the next set had to put the ball down for game point. Katie gives everyone a signal for their attack before the ball is served. Karlyn Daly passes the ball perfectly, and in my mind, I knew that if I got the ball, I had to put it away. Katie set a back row attack and I heard Lauren Jones-McClain, telling me what is open on the court and I get a kill. Next, Deva Fowler served match point and serves a tough serve over the net. Florida International passed the ball and set their big middle, and with all the emotions running though, us Kim Swafford and Nitia Small get an awesome block to end the game.
I have never screamed so loudly on the court before. We were so excited.
It almost felt like we had won conference. I was so proud of our team
because we put everything we had learned thus far together and no one
was afraid to get the job done. We won TOGETHER by everyone doing their
assigned task. I was named to the all-tournament team by the
participating coaches, but I wished I could have divided the plaque into
15 pieces because our 3 coaches and 12 players all contributed to my
getting this award. I realize we left San Diego with a 1-2 record, but
we won't forget that feeling we had when we won that game. It's a
feeling we want to keep throughout the season. We were winners.